Deaf Doctors

April 18, 2007


In Rochester, home to one of the largest deaf populations in the country, it’s not surprising to find a doctor who also happens to be deaf working here.

What might be surprising is that Rochester has become home to six deaf doctors, including four physicians, a veterinarian and a dentist. All were deaf as children, and all know sign language.

While no statistics exist on the number of deaf medical doctors in the country, those here say their clan is in the dozens but probably fewer than 100.

Nationally, about 1 percent of a population is deaf, which would equate to 7,367 deaf people in Monroe County, according to the Center for Governmental Research. That doesn’t factor in a larger deaf population in Rochester because of NTID and the Rochester School for the Deaf.

Dr. Carolyn Stern, a Brighton physician in private practice, drives a car with “DEAF DOC” personalized license plates, which she says helps educate a few people who seem surprised deaf people can even drive a car, let alone become a doctor.

“People said I couldn’t do it. But did I listen? No,” Stern said, smiling.

She communicates easily with her patients about 30 percent are deaf by speaking or using sign language. She rarely uses an interpreter. At their first meeting, she tells her patients about her hearing loss.

“I don’t think they think of me as deaf,” Stern said. “That kind of falls to the wayside as long as communication is happening.”

Stern has been, and continues to be, a role model to medical students.

Stern also keeps busy consulting medical groups, associations and agencies about accessible health care. Those visits have taken her as far away as China.

“Because I can’t hear, I depend on lip reading for cues to what is being said and thus notice teeth with cavities,” said Dr. Christopher Lehfeldt, a dentist who moved to Rochester in 1991. “Dentistry, then, is perfect for me as a career.”

Click here to read The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle News. Courtesy: Chris Lehfeldt and The Democrat and Chronicle.

  1. Packer
    April 18, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    I didn’t know we have many deaf doctors. That is cool. How many deaf doctors do we have in the world?

  2. S.
    April 18, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    BRAVO to you all !!!! very admirable.. CHEERs!! WISH YOU all the best of luck!!

    I know we have a few deaf lawyers, dentist, doctors and psychiatrist here as well in Ontario.. (trying to think I’m missing out some lol)

    I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian, maybe one of you can tell me what’s the challenges you’ve come to when becoming one. You can send me a msg with appreciation.

    S. (Ontario, Canada)

  3. April 18, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    This is truly an inspiration for me! I am currently going to school to get my radiology degree to become a radiology techician. When I first told my advisor what I wanted to major in, she told me this would be impossible. She even called the director for the degree program and had him talk to me…seemingly to discourage me to go into this field. I kept telling him no one can’t tell me what I can do or can’t do and if there was a way for me to do it I will find it. He asked me all sorts of questions like, how would u communicate with the hearing patients and the hearing doctors that you would be working with? I said..pen and paper..or even an interpreter. He said..well I dont know if any hospital would be willing to be paying an interpreter 24/7 to help you. I said..that is fine. I will find a way so I am going to do this. Finally he gave in and gave me the go to apply for this field. Afterwards, at the same time, I was so happy and disappointed. Any advices on how to go with this when I’m done with my major? How do I even get hired in the first place? Anything you got to say that would help me would be great!

  4. Julie Rems-Smario
    April 18, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    I love positive stories like this. The doctors in Rochester create great examples inspiring the hearing world to change their views of the Deaf community. More importantly, they are great role models for the Deaf children. Perhaps I should move to Rochester. Only if it is not so hard for a die hard California gal like me to adjust to the upstate New York weather!

    I am printing this story to post at my office 🙂


  5. April 19, 2007 at 12:51 am

    FYI, Dr. Carolyn Stern has her own website which is

    but I don’t know about others.



  6. Karen Mayes
    April 19, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Ahhh… nice to see old familiar faces. Dr. Stern delivered my daugher Elizabeth; Dr. Chris Lehfeldt was my family’s dentist. We don’t have any deaf physcicians here in Indianapolis… we hope we’d have one soon.

  7. April 19, 2007 at 6:22 am

    To Monica and any others thinking about similar goals…


    Don’t worry about whether or not being deaf is going to going to affect your ability to get that degree or find a job. Whether or not you gain employment after you finish your education isn’t dependent on your hearing (or lack of it)…


    You’ve got a good one so far. You proved to the director of the program that you have what it takes to get into the program. You have what it takes to succeed in the profession. This is not to say it won’t be challenging, because it will… but if you truly believe and practice the idea that deaf people CAN do anything, then you have nothing to worry about.


    Virginia L. Beach

  8. Nick Vera
    April 19, 2007 at 7:07 am

    I used to live in Rochester, NY where I attend NTID for 4 years. In fact, I love Rochester very much because of the largest capita of deaf community in the U.S. At RIT health center, I visited this center for physical examination and other illness where they provide sign language interpreter and some nurses knew sign language, not very fluent. I can comphrend their concept what she/he advised or reveal my sickness.
    Except my great deaf dentist, Chris Lehfeldt, he is a great communicator that convey the message about my teeth condition. It was very convenience to access into communication without any barriers. I hate to write in back and forth with hearing doctors like we are in the wall.
    Not only to Rochester, there is two deaf dentists in Maryland. Thank to Chris for his reference. Dr. Steven Rattner and Byron Bun (spell error) are also deaf including the deaf hygentist. Amazing about their services where they provide the communication for deaf patients to access, I am very pleased to feel like a home of deaf community.

    For your hometown, I strongly recommend you to contact Carolyn Stern at her website, to inquiry for her referrals to find your local medical access for deaf and hard of hearing individuals to visit such as doctor, dentist, eye doctor, etc. Indeed, she referred me with other medical resources in Washington, DC such as Georgetown University Hospital that do provide sign language intepreters. Also UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles where I used to visit frequently, they do have an interpreting service. It is very convenience to access your communication approaches.

    Hope that helps you.

    Nick Vera

  9. April 19, 2007 at 8:12 am

    That’s really cool.

  10. April 19, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Karen, Dr. Stern delivered my old son, too. (Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, Illinois) 😉


  11. Craig
    April 19, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Wow! We need more Deaf doctors.

  12. JFLMad
    April 19, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Heard that Dr. Stern don’t practice anymore? Is that true or not?

  13. April 19, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Hello! Thanks for all the wonderful comments and it is good to hear from people I worked with and take care of. Dino (Fookem) and Karen…hope things are well with you and your wonderful families!

    There are many resources for those who want to become healthcare providers, be it veterinarians, radiology technicians, physician assistants, chiropractors, nurses and doctors!

    But your first resource is your attitude, your sense of humor, your family and friends…your support network. Then, check out role models. Feel free to check out my website, as well as (association of medical professionals with hearing loss) and pah-md (a yahoo egroup).

    Have fun and don’t give up your dreams!

    Carolyn Stern, MD
    aka DeafDOC

  14. April 19, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I am still in practice, just not private practice. I am currently Medical Director at Rochester School for the Deaf and a Physician at Gallaudet University part time. I also work with my husband on our website.

    I keep busy, thanks to my family and their wonderful support as well as my friends.

    Carolyn Stern, MD

  15. April 19, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Virginia Beach! It truly means alot to me and I WILL DO IT! And I’ve put these websites in my favorites so I’ll probably be referring to it to help myself get thru this. And YES it is going to be a quite challenge..but hey I’m up to it and I do beleive any of us, deafies can DO ANYTHING as long as we put our minds to it! Good luck to everyone!

  16. Nikeboy
    April 20, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Dr. Carolyn Stern,

    Is there any deaf doctors besides Rochester, NY?

  17. beverly bownds
    April 22, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Dr. Judith Pachiarz also PHD. has been a doctor for many years .. Los Angeles.

    She is my idol to this day.

    Her story is remarkable and I had the honor and pleasure to work with her.

  18. beverly bownds
    April 22, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    There is a book in publicaton of famous Deaf people and their professions.

    Cant remember the name Dr Judy MD is in the book
    along with many others

  19. April 22, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Beverly Bownds, many thanks for sharing. We will look into her professional and write. Bug

  20. July 28, 2007 at 6:01 pm


    I came across this blog, and noticed it was me they’re talking about. I’m one of the two deaf dentists in Maryland. My name is spelled Dr. Bo Byun.

    Dr. Bo

  21. Grant
    December 11, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Considering moving to Rochester so I can communicate with Deaf Doctors.

  22. Shelley
    January 22, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Wow, this website is neat. I have always been interested in medicine, but I fear that if I get a degree in a field, then I will have a hard time finding a job. I don’t know if they will hire me because of my hearing impairment and the barrier in communication with the hearing. I am currently in college and interested in respiratory care, radiology, and cardivascular technology, but am not sure which one yet. I have done a lot of researching on these careers, and many have said that the requirements are that I have to be able to speak clearly and be able to listen to the patients. It just makes me feel like there are a lot of jobs out there that are going to be hard for the deaf, also makes me feel, “why bother?”. But, I shouldn’t let my deafness interfere with my dreams anyway.

  23. Anonymous
    April 5, 2008 at 6:49 pm


  24. Allison
    March 30, 2009 at 4:23 pm


    Is there anyone that are deaf that are going into Radiology? Are there any deaf x-ray tech here in the US?

  25. March 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Allison,

    Yes, there are a few Deaf Radiologic Technologists/ X-ray technician. I used to work as x-ray tech assistant in the past.


  26. Allison
    March 31, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Fookembug, Can you please tell me about your experiences as a Radiologic Tech? Did you have any difficulties with your deafness? You can email me at

  27. Jarry
    April 5, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Hello everybody,

    I am a predental student. Right now, I am conducting an ASL developmental-project. For that I need to contact deaf dentists. Do any of you know of any deaf dentists in the U.S.A. or place where I can have access to their contact information?



  28. Jarry
    April 8, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Hello Dr. Bo Byun,

    I am a predental student. Right now, I am conducting an ASL-Dental developmental-project. For that I need to contact deaf dentists. I ahve been trying to contact you for about two months, but I have heard from you. We are wonderign if you will be willing to help us on our research, in order to develop a ASL dictionary of dental terminology.

    Also, do you know of any other deaf dentists in the U.S.A. or Canada or places where I can have access to their contact information?

    Please contact me at:



  29. Dustin Reis
    May 10, 2009 at 6:34 am

    I’m also one of the “lost” members seeking out to find some information regarding Radiology Technologists. Is there a website, article current student or a certified RadTech here or anywhere that is deaf/HH? I could use some information to get confident in getting into the program and as well responding to the Board of RT interviewers. Giving them information that has already happened would give them a more peace of mind when deciding on choosing me for the program. Any kind of information would be useful. I can be reached at Thanks!


  30. Michael Del Vecchio
    May 12, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I am a deaf Radiologic Technologist, I graduated from Radiology school last year and am employed by a large teaching hospital.. Let me know if you have any questions regarding the profession and my experiences.

    Michael DelVecchio, RT(R)

  31. Christine Feinbaum
    June 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I didn’t know there was several doctors in Rochester as I think it because there so many deaf community in Rochester as NTID students as well as a better communication. Is there a deaf doctor in Florida?

  32. marcus hankins
    June 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    hello everyone, Im hard of hearings, Im still current in school, and also i still major in medicine. once i do my internship i want to work with deaf doctor and get to know them. can anyone help me out. what i need to do.

  33. Jessica
    October 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Guys!

    This is great to see a few Deaf Radiologic Technologist here! I’ve been reading everyone’s comments and advices. So far it looks like I’m only one from Seattle, Washington. a bit about me: I will be doing my prerequisites classes in January. I am very exciting to get started into the Radiologic and Imaging Technology Program at one of the best college in Western Washington State. Before I start enrolling classes…I’d to do some little researching with some of you. I’d like to find out how some of you in the medical field find a way to overcome the infamous communication barriers/issues that we deal with. That’s the big questions I want to find out from any of you Radiologic Technologists.

    Michael DelVecchio and Fookembug, can I “interview” you with some questions, either via here or email?

    It’d be great hearing some experiences here starting with you guys. If you’d like to keep your information private, please feel free to email me at

    Hope to find an answer!


  34. Alli
    July 7, 2010 at 11:14 am


    Does anyone know any deaf Cardiovasscular Technician?

  35. April 11, 2011 at 11:40 am

    hello am very happy to write to u by the way how are u and your family?i hope all things are moving on well with u over there. well i saw this profile and it was very nice to me to me and i made my mind to link with u as a friend if u don’t mine. actually am Daniel from Ghana and am also a student in position and i am deaf am also a respectful boy and i like co..operating with people like u and i will be happy to hear from u if u don’t mine,so that we can share ideas with each other and learn more from each other and i will also tell u more about my country and my culture because Ghana has a lot of festivals they celebrate which is very nice and it also good too,and i promise i will tell u all of them well it also has a lot scenery which is also nice and which attract tourism and a lot of people use to come to view because it is nice i will tell u some of them one is. the kintampo water falls,he boti falls,the crocodile pond at paga,and the mountain afadjato and many more because i can not mention. well i do not have enough time i should have tell u the places it is and how it is and i will tel u later when u reply. In addition am also from a nuclear family and am also living with my parent and parent love me a lot and i also love family so much and as at now am in school right now so i have miss family a lot and i will be moving back to my home town. I am interested to learn your how did work doctor it is wonderful surprised to the Ghana in west Africa don’t have deaf people doctor.
    well i promise i will be loyal to u and i also make u happy all the time and u will enjoy the rest of your life with happiness i will like to stop here but would like to hear from u soon take very good care of your self this is mine or +233273255573(sms)

  36. Cou
    October 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Im currently a sophomore in high school, and I definitely possess a passion for patient care. I was curious as to if there were any deaf people who made it out to be a doctor, myself being hard of hearing. This is very pleasing to see. I have never thought of my hearing loss as a obstacle towards my dreams, but rather, all the more motivation to get there. Leaning towards the field of urology, hopefully, I will be the next one to be listed as a deaf doctor 🙂

  37. Martha
    March 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    What about using C.A.R.T. or live captioning…. Captioning helps anybody with hearing loss in work or life situations.

    If you wish to learn more, check this free site of advocates for captioning everywhere.

  38. March 13, 2013 at 6:19 am

    If you are one of the many millions of people who suffer from chronic pain, and have decided it is finally time to seek out a an answer to your ailment, a big challenge might be how to find a doctor most qualified to help you. While you can just look online for physicians in your area, their name and address are not enough to understand how experienced that doctor truly is. what to say i praise of this blog, which contains a lot of amazing information as well as the thoughtful writes.

  1. November 27, 2007 at 8:31 am
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